Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting a near-average hurricane season for the Atlantic basin in 2016, citing two competing factors:
- El Niño is weakening and likely will dissipate prior to summer. We reaped the benefits of El Niño during our 2015 hurricane season. It produced more thunderstorms in the Pacific which gave us upper level wind shear that shredded storms from forming or steered them away from us.
- The far North Atlantic is quite cold. The absence of El Niño should reduce the strong upper-level westerly winds; however, the cold far North Atlantic often generates atmospheric conditions associated with increased sinking motion and stable air across the tropical Atlantic.
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 12 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Of those, researchers expect five to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. These forecast numbers do not include Hurricane Alex, which formed in January.
The team bases its forecasts on over 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.
The team predicts that 2016 hurricane activity will be about 95 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2015's hurricane activity was about 65 percent of the average season.
The CSU team will issue forecast updates on June 1, July 1 and August 3.
This is the 33rd year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued the Atlantic basin season hurricane forecast. William Gray, professor emeritus of atmospheric science, launched the report in 1984.
The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season – NOT AN EXACT MEASURE.
Klotzbach cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions.
"It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season," Klotzbach said.